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Dinner Club ~ Retro French Style

3 Dec

A dinner prepared by Michele is always certain to be a very stylish affair….

The Menu

Gougeres with French Champagne
Ham hock terrine with herbs and cornichons
BBQ prawn, chorizo & potato bowls
Free range d
uck confit, quatre epices, creamed puy lentils, pickled pear
Bombe Alaska with cherry sorbet, cherry ripple ice-cream

Michele and Jon run a biodynamic farm Main Ridge Olives, producing amazing table olives. Michele comes from a food focussed family with a German background and has worked as a cook in Europe as well as on the Mornington Peninsula. She always puts so much thought into every small detail… a meal prepared by Michele is always stunning, thoughtful and delicious.

The inspiration for the menu was the Bombe Alaska dessert that Michele had her heart set on making. It took many nights of prep in advance, making 2 types of iccream and sponge cakes. It set the theme for the evening. Retro French.

A special guest for this dinner club was Michele’s sister, Brigitte. They seemed to have had a lovely experience planning and cooking together for this dinner.

There were so many highlights. One of them for me were the Gougeres, based on a Phillipe Mouchel recipe, they were the most divine puffs of air, matched to Egly-Ouriet champagne, which I believe was also from a bio-dynamic French vineyard. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then my whipping up many a batch since to much acclaim, then Michele & Brigitte & Phillipe… you should be flattered!

The confit duck was also very special, a rare breed, free range duck, c’est incredible! A lovely fresh salad of bitter leaves with a chervil and mustard dressing was the accompaniment.

My wine contribution, one of my most favourite wines from the Peninsula ever and one of the reasons we moved here. Nat and Rosalie White’s Main Ridge Estate Half Acre Pinot Noir. I wish I had a couple in my cellar to be able to pull out one slightly older! What a wine.

And now, for the Piece de Resistance! La Bombe. The Inspiration. Icecream centre and sponge in tact and perfectly turned out, plates at the ready.

Italian meringue whipped perfectly

Applied expertly

Michele really enjoyed wielding the blow torch, pretty impressive & dramatic results…

The anticipation…

The first cut

Perfection

Michele just raised the bar totally out of sight. This meal will be in memory as one of the truly great ones forever.

Damn. My turn next.

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Four In Hand – A fleeting fling in Sin City

25 Feb

6 years is all it took to get away from the kids for a weekend.  The Brewer & I flitted up to Sydney, travelling oh so light.  We had a packed agenda and absolutely loved every second of it. So much so we were really quite seduced by Sydney and felt as though we were cheating on our beloved hometown.

First destination was the Four in Hand, it has 2 Chefs Hats.  It is in a beautiful old corner pub in Paddington, my kind of place.  A very steep corner…. from inside, the cars strangley look like they are driving vertically.

The front bar is a real ‘pub’ pub. Rowdy, crowded and beery with patrons noshing on burgers & chips. The dining room on the other hand, is cosy, intimate, quiet, elegant and classy.  We were seated right next to the glass separating the two, and I loved the background vibe of the pub.

It was impossible to choose between the dishes on the menu, so we both had the degustation, I got one amendment to mine so as to try a pork dish on the menu which looked irresistible.  The Chef, Colin Fassnidge, really seems to like his pork.  I had been following him on Twitter for awhile and there was a LOT of twalk about pork. I had high expectations.

We chose the matched wines, as there was an eclectic selection of wines offered by the glass with each course, and there just wouldn’t have been 1, or even 2 wines to go across this whole experience.

First up was the lime cured kingfish with avocado snow and vanilla matched to 2008 Quinta Do Ameal Loureiro from Portugal.

Did I say it was dim? Pics do not do food justice, but this dish was beautifully presented, and the flavours very fresh and delicate, it was also very textural with the avocado snow.  If I remember, the cucumber was slightly pickly too.

So, to pig. First up, Braised pigs talk with corn and lobster chowder matched to a 2008 Denis Pommier Petit Chablis, Burgundy, France.

This dish was the main reason we had to have the the degustation, as it wasn’t on the regular menu.  This little piggies tail was deboned and caramelised, a succulent, sticky little sliver in the most intensely flavoured broth.

Next up, lamb; two ways with baby fennel, courgette puree, pickled vegetables with a 2005 Pegasus By Merlot Cabernet, Waipara, NZ

This was in fact lamb 3 ways, in addition to the cutlet and the sticky square of shoulder (I think) there was a slice of tongue. The presentation of this dish was deliciously artistic. OK, I am kinda getting full now. Everything tastes so good, trust me, these plates were pretty well white when they cleared them.

The Brewer had the next course which was the orange braised beef brisket with poached veal and pearl barley with a 2008 Michael Hall Syrah, Eden Vally, SA. I remember it was incredibly tender. This was where I deviated. The roast suckling pig was on the regular menu and I had asked if I could swap the beef brisket for a taste of this dish……

but wait, there’s more, it came in 2 parts…..

This little piggy…. who me? Yes me. Another tail, plus 3 other cuts, all incredible, plus celeriac remoulade and colcannan (I think – food coma descending), I also had a lovely glass of sangiovese with this course. Seriously, just this dish alone could have fed both us little piggies.  It was amazing. Totally indulgent.

Whilst our main courses were happening, the background entertainment was the whole roast suckling pig, carted out to a nearby table, where the waitress adroitly dismembered it and served it to the table of 10 nearby. More pork!

So at this point you think I probably called it quits and rolled out into a cab and passed out. But no. Still to come, the ‘4s’ chocolate snickers, which I believe they are quite well known for.  Matched to a Pedro Ximinez. I ate it all.

There was only one thing left to do. Have a soothing whisky, they had an impressive array of single malt whiskies, four from Islay.  We indulged in the Ardberg Supernova, which we had never seen before and is apparently quite rare, also the Cadenhead.

I thought everything was pretty great value, 5 courses, $85, matched wines, $50 / $135 each. The mains alone were $36.  That represents pretty good value these days.  For this standard of food, service and included wines, it was exceptional. The service was outstanding. They had a lot of guests in rooms upstairs, so were running up and down these stairs all night.  It was busy. We were never forgotten nor were they ever flustered. If the measure of service is how many times they fold your linen napkin when you step away from the table, then they get 10/10 because they did not miss a single opportunity.

Thank god for these stairs, there are long, narrow staircases everywhere in Sydney. This one at the Four In Hand was treacherous for me as the steps were made for people who had smaller feet 150 years ago, my whole foot didn’t fit on them, so every trip to the toilet was pretty precarious, but maybe the trip worked off one morsel of pork.

If gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, then I have been a very bad girl, I blame Sydney, the city of seduction which will forever be known to me as Sin City.

A comment on the beer list.  Overall, Sydney was pretty devoid of great beer. It is a long way behind Melbourne. From what we could see, in the bar at the Four In Hand, were taps of pretty generic beers. Coopers or Carlsberg the highlight.  There were more options in bottles, the pick of which was a Lord Nelson 3 sheets (local), then the no-so-crafties from the big boys, Little Creatures, Squires, White Rabbit plus they had most of the fake imported lagers. Which is good for a Sydney pub.  The dining room sets a high benchmark for the gastropub in every other way, it would be great if there were some genuine craft beers on tap and a wider variety in the styles of beers on offer.  As it does with it’s wine list.

Four in Hand on Urbanspoon

Dish of my Year – Bentley Bar

25 Feb

Smoked eel parfait with white soy, kombu & seaweed at the Bentley Bar.  Like some kind of exotic underwater sea creature with delicate, fluttering, diaphanous wings. How beautiful. Just on visual appeal, this is my dish of the year.

The eating did not disappoint. The eel parfait inside was soft and light.  Around the outside, (kombu I presume) had a slippery savouriness, the white soy presented as mayonnaise on the plate and the seaweeds were the most incredible edibles worthy of a spot in Mrs Pamplemousse’s shop.  A most amazing combination of flavour, texture and visual appeal. I am still dreaming of it.

This Kingfish ceviche was also incredible, not at all what I was expecting.  It was in thin ribbons, like tagliatelli, as was the pickled diakon with the artistic little dollops of yuzu mayonnaise on the side.

It sounded pretty simple, poached egg with chickpea, preserved lemon and harissa, but once again, amazingly textural. We grilled our waiter on the suitability of this dish for sharing, he explained the egg was cooked at 60deg for 110 minutes. Pushing the boundaries of the slow cooked egg! But it mixed in with the chickpeas and made a lovely gooey dip that we piled onto crusty bread and it was outstanding.

Our final dish was this soft shell crab with green chilli salsa. Perfect, and the intensity of the green sauce… you can tell by its colour, which I thought used a lot of parsley, not completely chilli thank god, it was a cracker condiment for  the crunchy crab.

There is a lot more to love about Bentley Bar.  Dee & I had spent the morning at Paddington markets, we were exhausted and in need of major refreshment. The boys were drinking in a German bar somewhere, we hightailed it to the nearest & best bar we could find to wedgie in some sustenance.

The beverages list (not just “wine” list) were amazingly curated. Pretty much everything on their lists I had rarely, if ever seen.

The staff were very polished and knowledgeable, they didn’t hold back from suggestions by the glass for lunch. They are very passionate about their Rieslings, and despite my dislike of the variety, they were able to persuade me into enjoying a few different glasses, also, quite generously, providing me with multiple tastings of various styles and types in their attempts to get me under their sway. Worked.  Dee also experienced some unique sake until she drank it all and they ran out!

But this is what really got my attention. Have you ever seen a whisky list like this one. I guess there is a special person in Sydney (;-)) who assists with their selections and sourcing, but wow.

Us two girls were pretty well done, and as The Brewer is a HUGE single malt lover, after our dinner at MsGs we cabbed it back to Bentley Bar to have our digestif. Again, ably assisted by an expert waiter, we tried the Bunnahabhain and Ardberg, both incredibly different. Discussing our love of the peat, he also gave a little try of a tequila that was so peaty it tasted like whisky.

Unfortunately a drunk mob staggered through the door looking for drinks or a nightclub or sex, who knows. Idiots. Bar. Closed. Ruined our chances of trying the Springbank 1998 Cask Strength which is what I was working up to all day.

My little note on the beerlist, like all their other beverages, exceptionally thoughtful. Probably one of the best I’ve seen in a restaurant. Some interesting craft beers from around Australia including our own Mountain Goat, McLaren Vale Ave and White Rabbit, plus Trumer Pils on tap. Nice.

(02) 9332 2344
320 Crown St
Surry Hills

Bentley Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Dinner Club ~ A Middle Eastern Feast

27 Nov

The conveners and inaugural hosts of our dinner club… Joe and Dee, have a deep passion for authentic food and superb wines. We have been delighted many times by the smallgoods & pickles Joe brings home from his Italian family, and gorged on Dee’s abundant Middle Eastern feasts. Their combined Israeli – Italian backgrounds mean that even the smallest catchup revolves around a banquet.

So Dinner Club with Joe & Dee is a guaranteed feast of food and wine. It all started beautifully on a balmy night overlooking the hill & the bay at sunset.

The Menu
Beef Carpaccio & radish remoulade
Ravioli w spiced lamb mince caramelised onions & pinenuts
18hour Goat, flame roasted eggplant, cardamon & honey yoghurt
Pomegranate & snake bean freekah salad
Main Ridge Dairy goats curd tarlet w cardomon & vanilla apricot icecream

Joe is also our inhouse wine guy. Some superb wines were selected to accompany this feast, Pizzini Nebbiolo, Vajra Langhe Rosso and Crianza Rioja.

This Dinner Club was so beautiful and abundant, but I was really disappointed in my ability to get nice photos. It inspired me to think a little more about the way I take photos, in the hope I could do the people and food justice.

A Lazy Long Lunch

17 Nov

Just for fun, a girlfriend and I decided to go out for a spontaneous lunch. No husbands, kids, friends, or time constraints.  I had been wanting to do this at Foxeys Hangout for nearly 2 years!

My Lunch

There was much excitement in cellar door, as less than 12 hours before, brothers Michael & Tony had returned from the Royal Melbourne Wine Show where their 2009 shiraz had just snaffled the Premiers Trophy for best victorian red wine. A shiraz! From the Peninsula! A big coup. To say they were happy would be an understatement. Usually fairly reserved fellows, they were like kids on a sugar high.

The award

We sat down, and ordered….. coffee! Anyone who reads Tony’s columns in Epicure about running a winery, would remember one particularly notorious article about his aversion to serving people a coffee unless they were in for the wine. Don’t tell anyone, but they were good.

Coffee!!!

We then did what they do best, which was sit back, and get fed. No decisions, no interruptions to conversation. The plates just kept arriving, with 2 of everything until we had done them all. Everything is simple, fresh and just perfect for a slow moving lunch.  Here they are….

The asaparagus with blood orange was exceptionally pretty

My personal favourite was the tuna bresaola with radicchio & pear.

We loved the spicy meatballs

then tomatoes, quail & avocado….

Of course we had wine… most of them in fact, Rose, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the award winning shiraz. Everything except the sparkling wines, and I don’t know why we skipped them.  Lastly we went dessert, like a vanilla icecream maxibon, with chocolate sauce that oozed all over it.  Tony plonked a bottle of late harvest pinot gris on the table to try with it. It is a gorgeous wine.  It is quite unique for wineries on the Peninsula to have a sticky style wine, more should.

We caught an hour or two of sunshine which was a pretty rare sighting over the last few months. There is a spacious deck outside, which has no furniture, but is a lovely place to sit and ponder the view.  The little boxes along the edges are perfect for some nibbles & a glass of wine. Idyllic.  Whilst taking it all in, the two happy & tired brothers took a moment to do the same.  This is one of my favourite places on the Peninsula, I think because they are completely hands on and passionate about what they do.  Also, they do not try to please everyone and are not apologetic about this. They have their vision, they stick to it, and it works.  I was lucky to get the chance to completely indulge in their experience, with a good friend and it worked. Thanks.

Foxey's Hangout on Urbanspoon

Afternoon Delight

12 Oct

When you’re a happily married mother of small children and busy running a successful business, it is cause for a fair bit of guilt to sneak away on not one, but two, work afternoons to engage in activities that seem a little bit naughty and very pleasurable.  I was able to alleviate any guilt I was feeling as I was with The Brewer, it involved food and both occasions could be justified as ‘business’!

The lake and terrace at Stillwater at Crittenden

The occasion was not one, but two lovely soirees at Crittenden Estate Winery.  The first at Stillwater at Crittenden restaurant.  We caught up with our friends from Mordialloc Cellar Door to talk “business”.  Stillwater is one of the loveliest spots on the Peninsula, overlooking a gorgeous lake, with old vines, beautiful gardens and consistently good food that features quality produce.  Add to that professional and friendly staff (all too rare on the Peninsula sometimes) and every visit here is a delight.

The Brewer chose well, the duck 3 ways – rillette, cigar & parfait, it was beautifully presented.  I chose a braised rabbit pasta with pecorino which was delicious.  With our entrees we had a bottle of the Zumma Chardonnay. Zumma is the single vineyard, estate range, a pinot and a chardonnay, both very refined wines.

Duck 3 ways at Stillwater

This Black Angus aged eye fillet, with the cross section of marrow on the side and creamy mash was highly photogenic and  just looking at it again makes me hungry. The Brewer did well again.

Steak with marrow bone

My turn for duck now, a gorgeous little pot of cassoulet, featured confit duck leg & all manner of tasty morsels including, I think, garlic sausage, speck, pork belly and white beans topped with brioche crumbs!

Duck cassoulet

The steak presented sliced on the board looked amazing, Rangers Valley wagyu sirloin.  With it’s little condiments, fresh salad and smashed potatoes, it too was a winner.  Note, evidence of work meeting in background!

Steak with smashed potatoes

With our mains, we chose the Los Hermanos Homenaje a Cataluna, a tempranillo, mataro & grenache blend. I am such a fan of the Los Hermanos wines, created by siblings Zoe & Rollo, not only are they lovely wines, they are such fun to drink! I always seem to have fun when I drink them.

Boys hard at it over work lunch

The second Afternoon Delight was the Crittenden Wines annual garden party at the vineyard for Mornington Peninsula customers.  Under the shade of the beautiful big oak trees, surrounded by some of the oldest vines on the Peninsula, an abundance of wines are laid out for our enjoyment.

Crittenden Wines Garden Party

Gathering around the old oak trees

The wines were accompanied by a gourmet bbq / shared platter style of relaxed food, perfect for the occassion.  Stringers of Sorrento did a fine job with the catering.

Lunch

Lunch Menu

Even the ladybirds were impressed.  We were all covered in them, a sign of a healthy vineyard I am sure.  Ladybirds are natures way of keeping lots of little mites off grapevines.  They also can’t be too abundant if there is excessive use of pesticides, so they are a very welcome sign of a healthy ecosystem and hopefully will bring us all good luck.

Lucky Ladybirds

They certainly seem to have bought Rollo good luck recently, having recently been awarded the highly prestigious Young Gun of Wine Australia, they sure like him. Must be the secret to his success. Loved by Ladybirds!

Rollo

Rollo Crittenden... The secret of my success.... A healthy vineyard

The vineyard had a crew of workers tending the vines during the lunch.  Notice the size of the vines, it’s a pretty rare thing on the Mornington Peninsula to see them this established.  There were also crops planted in the rows, presumably providing agricultural diversity and to put back nutrients into the soil.

The beautiful vineyard

The days proceedings were watched over by the Sage, Garry Crittenden.  Keeping an eye here on two young bucks having a bit of a banter, making sure things didn’t get too out of hand!  Garry & Margaret must be very proud to look around at the vineyard they started in 1982 (worth a look at some old pics here) and to see the continued success & evolution of the business with the involvement of the next generation.

Garry Crittenden sees all!

Afternoon delight. Sure was.

Stillwater at Crittenden on Urbanspoon